Women's Leadership in Indonesia’s Modern Seaweed Processing Industry

A woman drying seaweeds by the beach in Indonesia.
Women play a crucial role in the seaweed value chain, from farming and harvesting to processing and marketing. Photo credit: UNIDO/Boedi Julianto

This article is published in collaboration with UNIDO.

Indonesia is a major player in the global seaweed industry, producing and exporting both raw and processed seaweed products. According to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, in 2021, Indonesia produced an estimated 9.05 million tons of seaweed (live weight), making it among the world's largest seaweed producers. The country's seaweed industry is valued at over $1 billion, with exports of processed seaweed products such as carrageenan and agar-agar accounting for a significant portion of the industry's revenue. Globally, Indonesia is the 7th largest exporter of agar-agar and the 6th for carrageenan.

Women play a crucial role in the seaweed value chain, from farming and harvesting to processing and marketing. In many Indonesian coastal communities, women are the primary seaweed farmers, responsible for tending to the crops and ensuring their growth and quality. Women are also involved in processing seaweed, including drying, sorting, and packing the raw material for sale. In addition, women are often the main market vendors, selling seaweed products in local and regional markets. Despite their significant contribution to the seaweed value chain, women often face numerous challenges, such as limited access to resources and markets, unequal pay, and lack of representation in decision-making processes.

Jane Tandra, the sales manager of Cahaya Cemerlang, is one of the women playing a crucial leadership role in Indonesia's seaweed processing industry. Established in 1969, Cahaya Cemerlang is one of the pioneers in seaweed processing, specializing in semi-refined carrageenan and refined carrageenan production. The company is a member of the Industrial Seaweed Association, which collaborated with the UNIDO SMARTFish project (2014–2019) and currently with the UNIDO Global Quality and Standards Programme (2019–2023) to promote sustainable seaweed production and processing in Indonesia, as well as to showcase the country's seaweed brand.

The increasing importance of digital platforms for marketing and networking has led Tandra to shift her company's focus toward digital promotion and participation in development programs. Recently, she has been actively participating in international exhibitions to promote Indonesian seaweed products and the UNIDO-supported brand, as well as engaging in national and international stakeholder dialogues in the seaweed business.

As a female leader in the seaweed industry, Tandra sees the seaweed processing industry as a space for both men and women to excel. Despite the challenges of balancing family life, female leaders within the seaweed industry work with enthusiasm and dedication. Tandra firmly believes that with the right training and opportunity, women can excel in the seaweed industry. With over 10 years of experience, dedication, and continuous learning, Tandra has gained the trust and confidence of both internal and external stakeholders to lead the business, proving that an individual's quality and performance outweigh gender considerations. Today, Tandra continues to explore new innovations related to raw material supply and the development of new seaweed products, which can provide more employment opportunities for women in the seaweed industry.

This article was first published by UNIDO on 31 March 2023.

Ita Scalia headshot.Ita Sualia
Program Development Specialist, UNIDO

Ita Sualia is a program development specialist at UNIDO. Prior to this role, she was the chief operating officer of UNIDO's Global Quality and Standards Programme in Indonesia, where she oversaw projects that support small and medium-sized aquaculture businesses. 

Boedi Julianto headshot.Boedi Julianto
Seaweed Value Chain Expert, UNIDO

Boedi Julianto is a seaweed value chain expert. He supports UNIDO's Global Quality and Standards Programme in Indonesia. 


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